Cognitive Grammar: A Basic Introduction

Cognitive Grammar: A Basic Introduction

Cognitive Grammar: A Basic Introduction

Cognitive Grammar: A Basic Introduction

Synopsis

This book fills a longstanding need for a basic introduction to Cognitive Grammar that is current, authoritative, comprehensive, and approachable. It presents a synthesis that draws together and refines the descriptive and theoretical notions developed in this framework over the course of three decades. In a unified manner, it accommodates both the conceptual and the social-interactive basis of linguistic structure, as well as the need for both functional explanation and explicit structural description. Starting with the fundamentals, essential aspects of the theory are systematically laid out with concrete illustrations and careful discussion of their rationale. Among the topics surveyed are conceptual semantics, grammatical classes, grammatical constructions, the lexicon-grammar continuum characterized as assemblies of symbolic structures (form-meaning pairings), and the usage-based account of productivity, restrictions, and well-formedness. The theory's central claim -that grammar is inherently meaningful - is thereby shown to be viable. The framework is further elucidated through application to nominal structure, clause structure, and complex sentences. These are examined in broad perspective, with exemplification from English and numerous other languages. In line with the theory's general principles, they are discussed not only in terms of their structural characterization, but also their conceptual value and functional motivation. Other matters explored include discourse, the temporal dimension of language structure, and what grammar reveals about cognitive processes and theconstruction of our mental world.

Excerpt

As you may have guessed from the title, this book presents the linguistic theory known as Cognitive Grammar (CG). Research in CG began in 1976, and the basic framework of the theory has now existed for over a quarter century. Under the rubric “space grammar”, it was first extensively described in Langacker 1982, whose numerous and unfortunately rather crudely drawn diagrams must have startled and dismayed the readers of Language. The most comprehensive statement of the theory resides in the hulking two-volume mass called Foundations of Cognitive Grammar (Langacker 1987, 1991). More accessible—or easier to lift at any rate—is Concept Image and Symbol (Langacker 1990), a collection of articles tailored as a single text. A second collection of this sort is Grammar and Conceptualization (Langacker 1999a). For ease of reference, these four books are cited here as FCG1, FCG2, CIS, and GC.

First proposed as a radical alternative to the theories then prevailing, CG may no longer seem so drastically different for the simple reason that the discipline has gradually evolved in its direction. There is no longer any clear distinction (if there ever was) between “formalist” and “functionalist” traditions in linguistic theory (Langacker 1999c). Nevertheless, CG is still regarded as extreme by most formalists, and even by many functionalists. And having been trained as a formalist, I myself first placed it at the extreme periphery of the theoretical landscape. But after spending several decades in that outpost, I have come to see it as occupying the very center. I perceive it as striking the proper balance between formalist and functionalist concerns. It straightforwardly reflects the dual grounding of language in cognition and social interaction. I further see it as able to accommodate, integrate, and synthesize the wealth of findings and insights emerging in the varied traditions of cognitive and functional linguistics.

By now there are more opportunities for reading about CG and cognitive linguistics than you probably care to know about. Many references are cited in this book. To appreciate the full scope of the enterprise, you need only peruse the many volumes of Cognitive Linguistics (journal of the International Cognitive Linguistics Association) and the monograph series Cognitive Linguistics Research (Mouton de . . .

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